Deciding on the Interior Color and Finish of a Swimming Pool

When it comes to building a pool, Gunite swimming pools allow for the most customizable options available.

When we were choosing a pool type for our home, we wanted to be able to customize so many different aspects of our pool, and we knew gunite was the clear choice for us. Which Type of Pool is Right for your Home discusses the different types of pool options on the market.

One of the customizable features of going gunite, is the ability to choose the finish and color of the pool’s interior surface. From choosing waterline tiles to deciding on the color of the water, the choices really are mind boggling. New products for finishes are coming out all the time and it can be overwhelming trying to decide between the different types available. Whether you are building a new pool or refinishing an existing one, there are a lot of decisions that need to be made and hopefully I can help you navigate the muddy “waters”.

Your pool builder (PB) should also be able to help you narrow your choice based on budget, appearance, texture, or what ever aspect is most important to you. My PB included an exposed aggregate finish in the cost of our pool, which is great, since it’s an upgrade over the standard plaster finish. My PB didn’t try to upsell any other finish and I didn’t know better than to ask about other options. But then I discovered the higher levels of exposed aggregate finishes on my own and a whole new world opened up and I wanted to learn more about them.

Interested in learning more about pool finishes via video – check out my Youtube channel.

What is a Pool’s Finish?

Let’s start by talking about what we mean when we say “pool finish”. The swimming pool finish prevents water from seeping into the ground through the concrete shell, because concrete is porous. Since pools are exposed to water, chlorine, and general wear and tear, they need a finish to protect the concrete to act as a barrier.

What are the Different Types and Levels of Finishes on the Market?

From what I gather, pool finishes can be grouped into three broad categories:

  • plaster
  • aggregate
  • tile

There are new products coming out all the time and it’s hard to keep up with the naming conventions, so I am going to try to differentiate them based on my research and knowledge as someone who is in the process of building a pool.

What are the Pros and Cons of Each Type of Swimming Pool Finish?

1.) Pool Plaster Finish

One of the oldest and the most economical options is a white plaster finish. This finish option has fallen out of fashion in recent years, but it is simple and affordable. Plaster finishes have been around since the 1960s.

Pool builders can add dyes to a plaster finish to change the color of the water and make it more appealing (some pool builders may charge extra for this, and some may not). This is the most economical option if you are building a pool and want a different water color other than the common aqua color of a white plaster finish.

The problem with white and colored plaster is that stains and discoloration become more apparent than with the other finishes. These plasters are prone to wear and tear more than aggregate or tile finishes. You can expect about a 7-10 year lifespan for a single plaster finish with average care. You should acid wash fairly regularly and carefully monitor the pool’s pH balance to extend the life of the finish. In addition, different types of pool plaster can help alleviate this problem so I suggest talking to your PB about this issue and coming up with a plan to get the longest life out of your pool plaster.

2.) Aggregate Pool Finish

I see the term aggregate being thrown around and depending on the company, there seems to be several “aggregate” finishes available. The word aggregate by definition means: a whole by combining several elements. Ok let’s start with that.

The term aggregate pool finish has evolved over the years as more products come into the market. Years ago, pool finishes were separated into categories of plaster, pebble, aggregate, quartz, and tile. But these days, aggregate finishes can now include quartz or pebbles or even glass – these are referred to as exposed aggregates.

Pool Plaster-2An exposed aggregate finish combines elements of a plaster finish with standard aggregates (sounds confusing? It is). Standard aggregate finishes use concrete as the main component, an exposed aggregate embeds pebbles, beads, quartz, crystals and glass directly into the plaster, thereby changing the texture.

Some of these additives can feel like walking on the bottom of a creek bed, and may be uncomfortable to those with sensitive feet. On the other hand, it looks pretty, especially if you want a natural aesthetic, so you have to weigh the options.

When it comes down to it, it’s really not important to know the difference between aggregate and exposed aggregates, the terms have morphed together to basically mean additives into dyed cement. What is important to know is that an exposed aggregate finish, when combined with chemical dyes, can drastically change the look of your pool. Exposed aggregate pool finishes have also been shown to have a lifespan of between 15 and 20 years, much longer than a plaster finish.

3.) Tile Pool Finish

The last finish in the line up and notably the most expensive I would assume, is a tile finish.

Tile is applied differently than the other two types of finishes. Rather than pouring in a mixture and smoothing it over, this type of finish consists of a collection of hand-applied tiles that create, for example a mosaic pattern (depending on the size of your tiles). As you might expect, tile takes the longest to install, hence it is the most expensive option.

Examples of Exposed Aggregate Pool Finishes

Many of you have probably heard of Pebble Technology aka Pebble Tec. The company has been around for over 25 years, they are the pioneers for exposed aggregate pool finishes, starting the trend for adding pebbles to a pool’s finish.

Pool Plaster-8Over the course of time, other companies like NPT have started their own line of pool finishes to include PlasterScapes, ColorScapes, QuartzScapes, StoneScapes, PolishedScapes, and JewelScapes.

Pool Plaster-7To further complicate the decision making process for customers, within the finish lines are different series. For Example, the StoneScapes line has various series to include Puerto Rico Blend, Mini Pebble and Touch of Glass. Basically these are all different aggregate blends within a colored plaster to create slightly different looks and textures.

Pool Plaster-11Once NPT opened back up, (after being closed for months due to COVID), I made an appointment to venture inside to check out the vast selection of pool finishes. I fell in love with one particular series, JewelScapes.

Pool Plaster-13This line is an aggregate of glass beads. The texture of this series seems to be the smoothest, most colorful and most luxurious of all the finishes. But, there’s a catch (isn’t there always?) When I asked my PB for a price on this finish…the cost was astronomical! The product itself is more expensive than the other blends, but the labor involved to install this finish made it drastically unaffordable! I was disappointed, as I really loved the smoothness and the reflective quality of this product but I’m not going to pay the insane price…so back to the drawing board…

Final Reveal of our New Pool

The Final Reveal is HERE, click on YouTube link to check out the finish we choose.

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12 thoughts on “Deciding on the Interior Color and Finish of a Swimming Pool

  1. There are THAT many choices??? 😬 Our pool looks awful and we keep putting off the whole resurfacing job.. Tell me they have photos of the samples that were used in actual pools so you can see how it would look over a large area..😩

    1. Hi Cindy, yes the companies do provide general examples of pool colors and how a pool will look with a particular color, but so many different things affect the color…so it’s just a guide. As for finish, you really have to feel a sample to get an idea of texture and put the sample under water to get an idea of how it will look. It’s overwhelming, but if you have a budget…that’s a good place to start 🙂

      1. Thanks Denise..and you’re right, a budget would likely whittle my choices down to a selection that wouldn’t overwhelm me..probably something more along the lines of “paper or plastic?” HAHA!!! 😂

      2. 🤣 Once you look into the cost of refinishing, you may very well decide to hold off! Our friends recently refinished their pool and I couldn’t believe how expensive it was! Whatever you choose, I wish you all the best!

      3. Go ahead and tell me..was it really bad? I’m down in florida so maybe there’s a bit more competition to drive down the price..although our neighbors need a metal roof and the quote was $80,000..and there are tons of companies installing them so.. yeah. 😕

      4. Yes it was really bad but it was new waterline tile, coping, and an upgraded pool plaster. Not surprised about the roof, they are insanely expensive too!

  2. Oh No – another cliff hanger!! 🙂 Who knew I could be so excited to find out about pool tile?! This was a fascinating article Denise! If we’re ever in a place big enough for a pool, I’m coming back here for a refresher! Can’t wait for the reveal!

    1. I hope you do come back Barbara, and so happy you are enjoying the information. As you know, being a fellow blogger, some of these posts take 10 hours plus to write…want to make the detail worth it. 🙂

    1. I love blue too Joni, most likely the bottom will be a form of blue..probably dark blue 🙂

  3. Love all your choices! I’m not sure if you’ve answered this a 100 times already, but would you mind sharing your product details? The stone patio brand and color, river rok finish and color and waterline tile brand and model name and size? Thx so much!

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